How To Get Started In Bonsai For Beginners

People always see these little bonsai trees and immediately want one for themselves. This is quickly followed by asking what is needed to get into the hobby of bonsai. A lot of people wrongly assume that its a very hard hobby and it must be expensive.

It can be, but luckily it doesn’t need to be and it’s not that difficult to get started.

If you are beginner, you can start small and very cheaply, potentially even for free. Bonsai is a very affordable hobby to start.

You Need A Tree To Start Bonsai

The first and most obvious thing you need to get started with bonsai is the tree.

The tree is the main element and focus of the hobby. Other things like pots and tools are still important (I will discuss them below), but with the tree you have nothing.

It also doesn’t really matter what species you have. There are some that are better suited for bonsai, but generally you can start with any tree.

(You can read more about – What Are The Best Species For Beginners To Use For Bonsai?)

You Need Some Basic Care Knowledge

Bonsai is not just about the tree, you also need some knowledge on how to care for them. They are living things and you need to make sure you can look after them or you will quickly kill them.

How you care for the tree is what differentiates this hobby from owning any other house plant or garden tree. You can start learning these skills now, but you may find it takes years to master them and that is all part of bonsai.

You Need To Learn How To Water Your Bonsai 

Water is essential for a bonsai, but it’s also probably the number 1 thing that can kill your tree if you get it wrong. 

Just use whatever water you have, it will be fine. The main thing is to actually give your tree water and try to learn how much it actually needs.

This can be a hard skill to learn at the start, but after a while can be very easy. You need to get the balance right …Not too much or Not to little.  

(For more information on how to properly water, you can read – How To Water A Bonsai)

You Need to Give Your Bonsai Light

Light is another fundamental pillar of life for your bonsai tree and it is something you will need to give your tree right from the start

The sun is the preferred and best source of light you can give your tree. It’s a fairly easy need to cater for, just make sure the tree gets sunlight. You can’t really mess this up.

However, sometimes a tree may need extra light, for example if your growing tropical trees in a colder/darker environment, but for most beginners you wont need to worry about that.

(You can read more about – Bonsai Grow Lights)

You Need To Learn How To Prune Your Tree

A lot of the reasons why bonsai look the way they do, both in terms of style in size, comes down to how they are pruned.

Keeping the tree alive is half the battle and the other half is all about styling the tree into a bonsai. If you just leave a tree alone it will grow into an ugly mess and also just try to grow large like an normal tree.

Its our job to direct the trees energy and get it to grow in a way that is much more aesthetically pleasing. This can be a hard thing to learn as trees in different stages of bonsai development need to be treated differently, then there is also differences between how different species are handled.

Its not a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to bonsai, but you will quickly learn what techniques are best for the tree that you are currently working on.

(You can read more about – How To Prune A Bonsai Tree)

Bonsai Soil

Having special soil doesn’t make a tree a bonsai, but it does allow the grower to optimise the trees growth that will over time help a tree be trained into a bonsai.

Soil is where the tree gets the majority of its essential air, water and nutrients from but its a controversial topic. There is most likely already 1 million articles on the topic, each saying something slightly different. Although everyone in the bonsai world is adamant their soil advice is the only way, the truth is there is no real right answer. 

At the end of the day a plant will grow in most things. When you go out into the wild you will find plants growing in all sorts of conditions from wet clay like soil to dry sandy soil and everything in between. 

Basically a tree can survive in any soil, but we are not looking for survival. Like I said before, good bonsai soil will provide optimal growth for your tree.  

The main purpose of bonsai soil is to optimise the growth of roots and to provide the best balance of air, water and nutrition. This is where it can get unnecessarily complicated and where the arguing begins – Trying to work out what is the best soil mix to achieve this.

Everyone has their own opinions. Basically it boils down to having a mix of organic and non-organic compounds and finding a ratio of these that works best for your trees. The ratios of these components, along with their particle size can all effect water retention, aeration, nutrient density and PH, which is why it is so difficult to find the ‘perfect’ mix.

There is also the consideration of the local climate, such a rainfall and temperatures. Which would affect how wet or how quickly the soil may dry out, and this is why the mix I use may not be ideal for you, since you might live in a different environment.

Soil can be bought ready made, or you can mix your own. As a beginner you need to find something fast draining. This should ensure you are heading along the right lines when considering water retention and aeration then you can tweak it over time to be the perfect mix for your situation.

(If you want to read how I do my soil, you can read – A General Guide To Bonsai Soil)

Do You Need A Bonsai Pot At the Start? 

The next major component you will need to get started with bonsai, is a bonsai pot. 

The size, shape, colour and texture of a pot can all have a significant effect on a tree, both horticulturally and ascetically. As your tree develops the pot selection become more important and significant.

For a tree at the beginning of its training, the pot is not so important. You could easily start a tree in a large plastic flower pot. It really doesn’t matter at the start. If anything a larger pot is actually preferred. The goal over the years is to reduce the roots down so it can fit in a shallow pot.

As a tree develops and is styled, the type of pot it requires will become clearer. You really do not need a fancy bonsai pot to get started with bonsai.

What Bonsai Tools Do You Need To Start?

There is a whole toolbox of tools that can be used in bonsai. Some you may already have, others may be things you have, but didn’t realise where tools. And some need to be bought. 

When first starting in bonsai, tools are not that important. You can maybe get by with what you already have. Its more important to focus on your knowledge.

However, as time goes on, you will need different specialised tools to preform certain techniques. Luckily bonsai is a slow hobby, so there is no rush to buy these all at once.

(You can read more about – A Guide To Beginner Bonsai Tools)

You Need Patience To Start Bonsai 

Now you have all the physical requirements and the knowledge to provide the bonsai with everything it needs, you need to focus on patience. 

This is often the hardest and most frustrating part for beginners, but patience is extremely important. Trees grow slowly. You can’t speed them up, you will just have to be patient and wait. You have to work with them and go at their speed.

You need to consider the long term health of the tree, so although you might be desperate to repot, or trim the branches. You have to be patient and wait until the tree is ready for these things. 

Once you master the art of caring for your tree everyday and being patient, the tree will reward you with growth and the opportunity to practice your bonsai techniques. 

While you patiently wait for you tree to grow, spend the time to study everything you can about the species and techniques that might be used as the tree develops.

(You can start your study by looking at some Common Bonsai Terminology For Beginners)


You don’t need much to start bonsai, basically just the tree and some basic care skills.

You shouldn’t worry to much about what tree you have or the tools and pots in the beginning. Focus on the basic knowledge, such as giving your tree the right care and getting some good soil. Once you have these skills built up you can start to think about everything else.

If you are a beginner in bonsai you can read more Beginner Tips Here